Bills would bar texting while driving for all ages

Current laws keep only people under the age of 21 from texting while driving.
The Missouri House will vote on two bills that would extend the texting while driving ban to people of all ages. Current laws keep only people under the age of 21 from texting while driving. Photo Illustration by Grant Hindsley

Two bills banning texting while driving are expected to pass through the Missouri House of Representatives after a hearing in the House Committee on Crime Prevention last week.

In 2009, State Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Jefferson County, passed Senate Bill 701 banning text messaging while operating a motor vehicle on Missouri's highways for any person 21 years old or younger. SB 701 dictates individuals can be pulled over solely for texting and driving, and it is considered a moving violation.

Rep. Tom Shively, D-Shelbyville, is sponsoring House Bill 93 to prohibit individuals of any age from texting and driving.

"When we passed the bill, I said, 'This isn't fair, let's just take this age part out,'" Shively said. "I don't think that age should apply because those of us over the 21 shouldn't be texting either."

Shively said he added a provision that he wanted to present regarding newer vehicles with the ability to transcribe what a person is saying into text message form. He said it is different if a person is not actually typing.

"In a lot of newer vehicles you can use voice commands to take over, and I think that should be exempt, because it is not considered texting while driving," Shively said.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, wrote House Bill 317 to prevent individuals from being pulled over solely for texting while driving.

"If you talk to the officers on the streets trying to enforce this, they run into two issues: first, 'Is the driver 19 or 22? How can we tell?' Also, 'Are they texting or not texting?'" Colona said.

Colona said officers run into the issue of probable cause with texting and driving cases, so they pull people over for other things like rolling a stop sign or weaving in and out of traffic.

"If they can't technically pull you over for (texting), how are they going to prove it?" sophomore Jennifer Windmann said. "I don't think anyone should text and drive, and if it is going to be a law, it shouldn't be that you have to be over a certain age to do it."

Colona said he was skeptical about the Senate Bill but he looked at the statistics for drivers under age 21 and saw that they were at the greatest risk for injury while driving.

Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, Chairman of the House Committee on Crime Prevention, said the committee had a hearing last week discussing both bills. He said despite the recent increase in texting while driving, the committee hopes that there will be a reduction in texting and driving after these bills pass.

"I would say that the number of people texting and driving has been increasing in those 21 and younger, but it is also my belief that older adults are doing this more too," Schad said. "It is now known that the human brain cannot think about more than one thing at a time, so what that means to us is that we are switching between what we are doing with our hands while texting and being a safe driver."

Schad said he expects the bills to be supported and pass through committee.

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